Criminal Defense Attorney
Many people understand what the jury does during a trial. But many people who are not involved in the criminal justice system are not quite sure what a grand jury is. Those who do understand the role of the grand jury are often divided on the process. Opponents of the grand jury process describe it as discriminative and secretive; proponents say the process allows a community to determine whether certain cases (usually serious crimes or high-profile crimes) should be brought to trial. But what exactly is a grand jury, how does it perform its function, and what can a criminal defense attorney do if you are the subject of a grand jury proceeding?
What Is a Grand Jury and What Is Its Function?
A grand jury is a collection of individuals who are summoned to hear evidence and decide whether there is sufficient information to charge a particular individual with a crime. Much like a traditional jury, prospective grand jurors are selected at random, are meant to represent a broad cross-section of the community, and typically serve for a certain period of time.
The function of a grand jury is to meet and determine whether there is probable cause to believe an individual did commit a crime and should be charged. Because public trials can be expensive for the prosecution as well as the defendant (not to mention the embarrassment involved for the charged individual), a grand jury helps ensure that only those cases that have sufficient evidence to support them proceed to trial.
How Does a Grand Jury Perform Its Role?
In order to determine if there is probable cause, the grand jury hears evidence and testimony from sworn witnesses. Questioning of witnesses can either be done by the prosecutor or by the grand jury members themselves. There is usually no other attorney other than the prosecution present in grand jury proceedings, and the potential defendant – the subject of the grand jury proceeding – can only testify if he or she has been read his or her Miranda rights and has been given the opportunity to speak with a lawyer if he or she chooses. The grand jury’s proceedings are secret so as to avoid the possibility that the grand jurors are pressured to return a particular finding.
At the end of the grand jury’s investigation, the grand jury will determine whether there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and will return a “true bill.” If more than three members of the 12-member grand jury do not believe there is probable cause, they will return no bill.
What Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Do for Me?
Even though a grand jury proceeding is not considered adversarial, that does not mean that it should not be taken lightly. If you find that you are the subject of a grand jury investigation, do not delay in contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney in Redwood City, CA. You may waive important rights and privileges by testifying without first consulting with an attorney.
Thanks to The Morales Law Firm for their insight into criminal defense and the grand jury process.